Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Guest Review: David Hankla on X-Men Origins: Wolverine

David Hankla is a Gonzo journalist and Halifax Sex Knight with an assload of undergraduate and postgraduate degrees in film from Duke, NYU, and USC. So you should trust his judgment. For future reference, this site will grade films on a five-star scale.

If you’re going to scrap 30 years of carefully crafted history, at least have the courtesy to make the end result entertaining.

What an utter waste of talent. What a waste of potential. Worst of all, what a waste of time. Not just the audience’s time either, but the time of so many countless people who clearly worked very hard to make those trucks blow up, or that nuclear power plant fall down, and even those dozens of people who worked on the simple moments, like when Logan’s claws spark as they touch each other. Ah, what a great scene: straight out of Who Framed Roger Rabbit, both in the quality of the CGI and the laughability of the moment. The sad difference though, is that Roger Rabbit wanted to make us laugh.

How did no one ever stand up and shout out, “PEOPLE, DOES ANYBODY KNOW WHAT WE’RE DOING?” Someone had to wonder. A lot of people had to wonder. This movie cost close to two-hundred-million dollars to make. That’s a number with eight zeroes. That’s like winning the mega-millions lottery twice. When you play with that kind of money, shouldn’t someone demand that a script be written that wasn’t scrawled in the back of a limo during rides to the set? There were more groan-inducing lines in this butcher’s slop than in Spider-Man 3. And Spider-Man 3 was terrible. How did nobody demand a rewrite?

This script felt as if it had been coddled together from a series of web comics written by people who neither knew comic book history nor ever spoke to one another. There was no storyline, no emotional development, and no character arc, very little logic and the closest thing to range shown was behind the characters, when silence often was compared, then broken by sounds of massive explosions. Talented actors appeared and were wasted, characters who could have been major components or even carried films of their own were cast aside in five-lines or less. Entire centuries of history bearing limitless potential for multiple, independent Wolverine origin films were thrown aside during the opening credits alone. Talented people worked on this film. A lot of talented people. Award-winning people. How did nobody care that what they were making was garbage?

Normally, paragraph four is where the critic is supposed to describe the plot of the film so that the potential viewer reading sed review can decide whether the film is really the kind of story he/she might like. Well, as previously stated, the story is a half-coddled mess, so let me summarize in bullet point so as to save us all time.

a) Wolverine starts as a boy. He kills his first person.
b) Then he grows up. He is played by Hugh Jackman, who is fit, but looks old.
c) He kills a lot of people.
d) Then he grows tired of killing people and falls in love in Canada.
e) Creed, his brother, kills Wolverine’s girlfriend. He is played by Liev Schreiber.
f) Wolverine gets mad, then gets metal grafted to his bones. He kills a lot of people.
g) A lot of things blow up. Nothing is resolved.

That was fun. Much more efficient too. And wow, no details wasted. Back to the viscera.

To ignore so many years of talented, painstaking effort is more than just laziness: it is arrogance. It isn’t hard to adapt a comic book well. Comic books are storyboards already. Just take the dialogue and stories that have already been written and combine them in a linear fashion. If the film is done well, the original writers will be proud that their stories and words made it into such a well-done film. The only real way to mess this process up is to either have bad material to being with (not the case here), or to rush the work and assume that the audience will be dumb enough not to care if the story presented to them is boring, effects-driven tripe.

In the final moments of the film, during the rolling of the unending credits, came the hidden scene. This is after the great pay-off that made no sense and the burning of the digital world, of course . . .but there it was. It appeared suddenly out of that black-and-white Courier font simplicity and lasted only four lines, but was meant to whet our appetite for the obvious sequel. As the scene ended, a fellow audience member promptly shouted out “Are You Serious?!?!?” with both gusto and horror. Whoever you are, honest teenager, you put it perfectly. If only you’d been on set for this production as well.

One Star

Directed by Gavin Hood
Written by David Benioff and Skip Woods

Hugh Jackman – Logan/Wolverine
Liev Schreiber – Victor Creed/Sabretooth
Danny Huston – William Stryker
Will.i.Am – John Wraith
Lynn Collins – Kayla Silverfox
Kevin Durand – Frederick J. Dukes/The Blob
Dominic Monaghan – Chris Bradley/Bolt
Taylor Kitsch – Remy LeBeau/Gambit
Daniel Henney – David North/Agent Zero
Ryan Reynolds – Wade Wilson/Deadpool
Scott Adkins – Weapon XI
Tim Pocock – Scott Summers
Julia Blake – Heather Hudson
Max Cullen – Travis Hudson
Troye Sivan – James
Michael-James Olsen – Dog (Young Creed)
Peter O’Brien – John Howlett
Aaron Jeffery – Thomas Logan
Alice Parkinson – Elizabeth Howlett

David Hankla owns and operates He is a bad enough dude to save the president. Are you?

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Let's Be Honest

Let's get the concessions out of the way first. Beyonce is a terrible actress on par with Madonna in Dick Tracy. Ali Larter is not nearly hot enough, and I mean by a galaxy of hotness, to make the idea that a super-handsome black man would consider leaving his wife Beyonce for her work. And, sadly for him, Idris Elba will probably never be able to make a film without at least thirty percent of the audience ask, "Why is Stringer Bell in this movie?"

Obsessed probably has some other problems, too, like a terrible script with ham-fisted dialogue, a total zero for a director, Jerry O'Connell is in it, and perhaps most overlooked is the fact that it was released by Screen Gems. Screen Gems is awful.

You are waiting for the "but!"


I honestly don't care. This movie looks so awesomely terrible I can barely contain my exuberance. Allow me to elaborate.

1. Idris Elba is the male lead of this film. Idris Elba is notable for two things: playing Stringer Bell on The Wire and being supremely good-looking.

2. The plot, while contrived, formulaic, and stale, manages to toss some taboo sexcellence into the mix: interracial intercourse!

3. This movie has the potential to be one of the best crappy guilty pleasure films of this decade. Do you remember the first time you saw The Boondock Saints, and you thought to yourself, "Wow, that movie was fucking awful! No one with a brain stem could enjoy that pile of shit!" And then you found out that four of your friends ABSOLUTELY LOVE The Boondock Saints? That is about to happen to me with Obsessed.

In six months when I come skipping home from Best Buy with an enormous smile on my face and a small rectangle tucked lovingly under my arm, and someone asks me what I bought, and I reply that I bought Obsessed, they will punch me in the face, but I will still be happy, because I will know the truth.

The Boutros on A-Rod

I agree with some of my man Bearfight's most recent post on Alex Rodriguez, his steroid use, and the newly-released book about the former by Selena Roberts. Like Bearfight, I hope Rodriguez performs poorly statistically and I hope the Yankees' season suffers because of his detrimental on-field efforts. This is because I root against him and his team as a baseball fan. In that regard, there is no animosity in my antagonism of the man.

But! The first item I must point out as potential falsehood is Bearfight's description of Rodriguez as "the greatest baseball player in the world right now." This is simply not true. He is not the most talented, he is not the most clutch, he is not the most feared, he is not the most productive. By no definition of talent or output is Alex Rodriguez the best baseball player in the world. Albert Pujols is the best baseball player in the world. And if it's "right now" you want, it would be hard to argue against Zack Greinke.

More importantly, though, I take issue with Bearfight's defense of Rodriguez's...soul, I guess? His argument is that because Rodriguez never hurt anyone else through his steroid use, he does not deserve the unilateral scorn he receives from the mass media, the fans and general public. But I totally disagree. I don't give a shit if he didn't hurt anyone else. He is paid over $20 million per year--about $45,000 per at-bat--to play baseball. He is at your disposal and my disposal and the disposal of every asshole out there who pays to see him play. He is meat. He is a commodity. He is goods and sundries. (And he obviously sees himself in the same way, considering what he is willing to do to his body to get ahead.)

People aren't so stupid or naive anymore that they decry steroid use as counter to the American wholesomeness of what baseball should stand for. That is a crock of shit. Everyone's on something these days; to call Rodriguez out as a taint upon the pristine crystal castle of nice fluffy innocence is bunk, bunk I say! But that doesn't mean you have to like it. And in a sad, sad way, it changes the self-aggrandizing reaction of the fan. It doesn't matter if you do steroids; it matters if you are a dirtbag, and it matters aun mas if you're a dirtbag who gets caught.

The fan has absolutely, positively no obligation to make excuses for the athlete. This is the life that they signed up for, because most of them are smart enough to know how to stay in the cut without committing some atrociously stupid crime or other mistake. If you are a superstar multimillionaire athlete in the sports-lunatic United States and you break the rules--the rules of the game, the rules of the road, the rules of your nuptuals--not only should you prepare to be caught, you should prepare to be skewered for the rest of your life. And you will deserve it.

Yes, Bearfight, most people are assholes. The ratio of asshole to not-asshole is depressingly high across the world. But do you know where it's even higher? In professional sports. These men do not care about you. They would not protect your image if it were in jeopardy. Why should you try to protect theirs? Alex Rodriguez is not going to send you a bouquet of flowers just because you rushed to his defense.

Ultimately, I don't care about Alex Rodriguez. His fate will not determine mine. I don't think he's evil and I don't think he should be imprisoned or suspended or whatever. But I also don't think people like Bearfight and Jim Caple should waste their breath coming to the defense of a man who means nothing to them and to whom they most certainly mean nothing. Perhaps I'm too cynical or apathetic to be a "true" sports fan, the kind that forms a one-way symbiotic nurse shark relationship with my favorite professional athletes.

An addendum: I'd like to point out to all five of you that yes, this is a most rare occasion on which Bearfight and I are not in full tandem-bass agreement. It's worth noting that in the three years since we entered college, Bearfight and I have arrived at different places with regards to our relationship with sports and the athletes that play them. As a staff writer in the sports department at the Michigan Daily, now the only newspaper in Ann Arbor thanks to the death of the Ann Arbor News, I have been on the receiving end of some undeservedly poor treatment at the hands of various athletic department staff and students. When you are blown off by an eleventh-string volleyball player on the second-worst volleyball team in the Big Ten, you cannot help but develop a thick skin. As a result of my three years of begrudging access to occasionally unwarranted elitism, my default perception of athletes is a negative one. I am this way for my own protection; this way, when a pine-riding chump on the diving team tells me I am not worth his time, my feelings are not hurt and I remain unfazed, and when a member of the women's gymnastics team smiles at me and answers all of my questions I am all the happier for it. Perhaps Bearfight has been in similar situations; perhaps not. The last thing I want to do is put words in his mouth. All I can tell you is that athletes presently exist in my life as disposable amenities, because I am no more to them. I would be foolish not to admit that this undoubtedly affects my opinions of professional athletes as well.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Please read

An excellent piece today on's Page 2 by Jim Caple (a fine writer who deserves to be read) concerning the ridiculous standards which the public holds ARod and, by extension, other baseball players.

You can find the piece here.

With the release of Selena Roberts' new book about ARod, there has been and undoubtedly will continue to be even more scrutiny on the greatest baseball player in the world right now. Now don't get me wrong, I don't like ARod. In fact, I hope he fails, because that means that the Yankees will be failing giving my Orioles a better chance. In fact, to varying extents, I hope every single player not employed by the Orioles fails. If you feel any differently about the players who are not on your team, you are, quite frankly, a terrible fan of that team. In addition, I don't condone ARod's steroid use or some of his extra-curricular activities. But the fact is that ARod, and Barry Bonds and Mark McGwire and so on and so on before him, are being held to an impossibly high standard. Think about it. How many of you wouldn't have taken steroids? It's an injection that could make you earn millions of dollars more a year and, at the time, there were little to no consequences for doing so. Why did he do this? Because, like everyone else, Rodriguez is human. Nobody is perfect and for him to simply wish to be better to satisfy the cravings of the hordes of fans out there who want nothing less than greatness is a natural and encouraged desire.

Here's a fact for you: most people are assholes. Think about the people you know. Your family, your friends, your coworkers. There's a least a few assholes in that group, unless you live in a monastery (in which case, you're probably the asshole because you're breaking the rules and using the internet). People cheat on their taxes, they cheat on their spouses, they don't pay parking tickets, they buy an extra lunch on their company's tab, they promise to do something and then completely neglect it. ARod hasn't beaten his wife. He hasn't exploited sweat-shop labor. He hasn't raped anyone. He hasn't been caught in a huge embezzlement scam. Quite literally nobody has been directly harmed by his actions. And yet we crucify him as though he were the second coming of Pol Pot. Folks, I'm not saying we leave ARod alone, I'm just suggesting we criticize him when he actually deserves criticism. If the man goes 0-4 during a playoff game, let's rip on him (sidebar: Derek Jeter's post-season stats in 25 series: 17 HRs, .377 OBP, .469 SLG; ARod's post-season stats in 10 series, less than half: 7 HRs, .361 OBP, .483 SLG...essentially the same player except Rodriguez has always played better defense). If the man has taken steroids since the implementation of the new drug policies, let's rip on him and penalize him appropriately. If the man does something truly egregious (like, say killing your wife and then playing the race card to get out of it, OJ) then we can rip on him. But otherwise, treat him like anyone else you know.